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Arts & Life

'Crazy Rich Asians' Changes How Asian Males Are Viewed


So judging by the success of the movie "Crazy Rich Asians," Asian men are hot. Back in 2016, we spoke with filmmakers about how rare that is, seeing sexy Asian men on the big screen. NPR's Ashley Westerman followed up with some of them.

ASHLEY WESTERMAN, BYLINE: Unattractive, asexual, always the sidekick - the movie "Crazy Rich Asians" throws these overused stereotypes of Asian men right out the window.


HENRY GOLDING: (As Nick Young) So what about us taking an adventure East?

WESTERMAN: Malaysian-British actor Henry Golding stars as Nick Young, the handsome, charming and super-fit male lead. The movie is about Nick taking his girlfriend Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu, to meet his family for the first time.


GOLDING: (As Nick Young) Singapore for spring break - Colin's wedding. We've been dating for over a year now, and I think it's about time people met my beautiful girlfriend.

WESTERMAN: It's this scene near the very start of the movie where Nick solidifies himself as the leading man. But he's not just attractive and crazy rich. As the movie unfolds, you realize that Nick and the other leading male characters are also layered and complicated. When I spoke with actor Yoshi Sudarso back in 2016, he said Asian actors were never cast in heartthrob roles. "Crazy Rich Asians" gives him hope.

YOSHI SUDARSO: So it shows, like - hey, guys, not all Asian men are the same. Yeah, some of us are honorable, some of us are not. Some of us kind of mean.

WESTERMAN: Two years ago, Sudarso starred in the web short called "It's Asian Men!"


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing) You put it on me.

WESTERMAN: That seven-minute film was like a dream sequence of hot and baby oil-ed Asian guys trying to capture the attention of an unimpressed, young woman with their sexy dancing. It had a simple message - Asian men can be desirable. Two years later, "Crazy Rich Asians'" director John M. Chu, who helped crowdfund its Asian men, takes that message to the big screen. Phil Yu writes the Angry Asian Man blog.

PHIL YU: It's intentional, right? They want to show a different side of Asian men that you haven't seen before.

WESTERMAN: He says "Crazy Rich Asians," with its many shirtless scenes and lingering torso shots, even makes a bit of a meal out of it.

YU: The theater that I saw it in - people were hooting and hollering. And it was just really fun to see that kind of reversal of that imagery.

WESTERMAN: Film producer Narhee Ahn wrote and directed "It's Asian Men!" She says "Crazy Rich Asians" is not just a moment. It's a movement.

NARHEE AHN: It's a normalization of Asian male hotness. It's an acceptance of diversity of not just, you know, the way you look but just of who you are. And that has been denied to portrayals of Asian-Americans and Asians in general in Hollywood.

WESTERMAN: The 2010 census showed Asians to be the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. And with the success of movies and books like this, it could be a movement. Ashley Westerman, NPR News.


CHERYL K: (Singing in Chinese). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.